Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III
Abyssinian Baptist Church
“Harlem is heaven. I am what I am and I do what I do because of the leading of God’s spirit.”
“Harlem represents, for me, that spiritual realm, that spiritual place where, at least, people of African descent ought to be able to survive together, work together, pray together, sing together, walk together, talk together, in order to maintain a spiritual atmosphere of oneness, of unity, of cooperation and of building. Spiritually, we are all working toward the same goal. We want safer cleaner streets, we want a kinder community, we want experiences that will make us happy, and not things that will make us sad. Our spiritual existence together, our sharing of our common desires, is what spirit is.
Harlem is a crossroads of the African American experience. People of African descent from all over the world pass through Harlem. We are diverse because we are from the South, the Caribbean and Africa. And we meet here in Harlem. And people from other countries, ethnic and racial backgrounds, come to Harlem to get a taste of the flavor of the African experience in America.
My favorite place to go in Harlem is the Abyssinian Baptist Church, and it is the people in the church that makes it special for me. It has been my home since 1972. When I studied the history of the liberation struggle of African people in America, it was predominated by ministers and/or people of deep and abiding faith in God. So, I knew that if I was going to be involved in the liberation struggle for black people, it would be in the church.”
In addition to being Pastor of Abyssinian, Rev. Butts is President of SUNY College at Old Westbury. He is a graduate of Morehouse College. He earned his Master of Divinity Degree from Union Theological Seminary, and his Doctor of Ministry Degree from Drew University. As co-founder of Abyssinian Development Corporation, he is a leader of Harlem’s new renaissance through housing and commercial development, and the establishment of Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change.